Plans Announced for Two New Hotels in Downtown Knoxville

Rendering of Hilton from from the Corner of Walnut and Church
Rendering of Tempo by Hilton from from the Corner of Walnut and Church

Word spread this week regarding details of new hotel plans for the parking lot facing the 400 blocks of Church Avenue, with frontage on both Walnut and Market Streets. Vector Hospitality, Inc, based in Atlanta will construct a Tempo by Hilton on the spot and it includes several public-facing amenities. Only two Tempo hotels currently operate; one in New York City and another in Nashville. The new brand is presented as “an upscale lifestyle brand.”

Representatives formally presented the project to the Design Review Board on Wednesday where suggestions were made, including one that might have a large impact on the project. It also allowed me to speak with the representatives to gather just a bit more detail. The company has two hotels in the works for downtown and I’ve included details about that below.

Presentation to Design Review Board, Knoxville, February 2024
Presentation to Design Review Board, Knoxville, February 2024

Both projects include more vertical reach than recently seen in downtown development. The planned Tempo on Church Avenue projects to be nine stories, with retail and hotel entrances on the first floor, four floors of parking, and four floors of hotel space above. Primary entrances for the hotel and garage will line Walnut, while retail and lobby space will line Church, with the bulk of the retail space near the intersection of Church and Walnut. That space will be contracted to an outside business and could include one large retail space or smaller spaces, depending on the needs of the tenants. Valet parking and rideshare pickup will occur off the street, inside the entrance to the garage.

The ground level will be brick, with many windows opening to the interior space. A small sliver of the property fronts Market Street and this space will be used as a restaurant and bar which will include a second-story rooftop. The café and bar will be branded “Bluestone Lane Coffee.”

Map of Location for Hilton Hotel
View of Hilton Site from Walnut, Knoxville, February 2024
View of Hilton Site from Walnut, Knoxville, February 2024

The four floors of parking will be fronted by an artistic metal covering, giving some pedestrian interest for what would otherwise be the solid mass common to parking garages. The garage will include 275 spaces, far more than needed for the 175 rooms on floors five through nine and will be open to public parking. Regarding the top floors, some interesting conversation emerged during the Review Board Meeting.

Hilton Site Viewed from Market Street, Knoxville, February 2024
Rendering of Hilton from from Market Street

Some sentiment was expressed that the setback required by downtown buildings that reach a certain height, may be relaxed for this project. The reasoning seemed to be that the setback is to break up the mass of tall, shear buildings, and the proposed covering for the garage serves that function. If the setback requirement was waived, that would allow developers to add more rooms. When asked if they were interested in exploring that possibility with an altered design, Hitesh Patel of Elevate Architecture Studio, said that’s what they wanted to do from the outset, but contoured the design to meet the guidelines.

The hotel will include flexible meeting spaces, a “state-of-the-art fitness center, and surprising, uplifting artistic touches.” The Design Review approved the current design with more information requested on specific details in the future. Should the design be altered to remove the ten-foot set-back, the new design would need to be submitted to the board, as well. According to Mr. Patel, construction should begin in early 2025, with completion anticipated eighteen-to-twenty months later with an opening planned for the fall of 2026 (the website says spring of that year).

Rendering of Marriott Site from Walnut Street

AC by Marriott

The second hotel, developed and designed by the same two groups, will be branded differently. The AC by Marriott will occupy the seemingly small, narrow space between the Daylight Building on Union Avenue (the one with JC Holdway, Union Avenue Books, etc.) and the Langley Garage. The official addresses on each end of the building will be 427 Walnut Street and 416 Locust Street, and the east end of the site is over a portion of Peter Kern’s original residence.

View of Marriott Site from Walnut, Knoxville, February 2024
Rendering of Marriott Site from Locust Street.jpg
View of Marriott Site from Locust, Knoxville, February 2024

I say “seemingly” small because the hotel that will fill the current parking lot will boast 162 rooms. Directed more at no-nonsense business travelers, the property “anticipates and supports their true needs, and enables them to live life on the road by design.” That said, the hotel, which will come in at seven stories, offering views of the city, the Sunsphere and (they say) Neyland Stadium, does offer a rooftop bar which, presumably, will be open to the public. While the website suggests the property will be open by the Fall of 2025, I was told that construction will begin this summer and completion is expected in early 2026.